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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Monday, January 28, 2013
The story that takes place in H&G is not a very compelling one. Hansel and Gretel are siblings who hunt witches for a living. It is kind of easy for them since they are immune to the spells witches cast. They are investigating a rash of kidnappings involving a large amount of children. Maybe it is because I watch a lot of movies but all the twists and turns the movie takes are really predictable. For instance at the beginning a woman is accused of being a witch and is saved by the two witch hunters. Hansel (Oh, hey its that guy from THE AVENGERS!) checks her out for the signs of being a witch and clears her but you just know she is going to turn out to be one anyway. The whole movie is like that. Even though there is some character development it barely registers on the screen. The love story between Hansel and the woman he saved at the beginning is touched upon and then quickly taken away at the end without leaving much impression on the audience. Or at least me anyway. I am not going to speak for everybody else. I may have a blog but my ego isn't that big.
Short on story and run time H&G succeeds at being a very entertaining bloody action adventure film. This is not a film that compromises on the violence. The fights are easy to follow and not too overly edited. They kill lots of witches throughout the film especially at the end. I will say at some points of the fighting the kickass badassery doesn't quite hit the spot due to the frantic pacing of the fights. Some of the more golden moments are passed by too quickly rather than slowing them down or at one point showing them at all. One of the main bad witches death is implied but not shown which I thought was weird because they have shown everything else in the film. Why not her end as well? Hansel points a gun at her face at point blank range and then the shot cuts away to some other stuff going on. Not sure why. I would have really liked to see that witch get her face blown across the room.
If you have ever wondered what a SyFy original film would look like if it had a large budget with big studio backing then HANSEL AND GRETEL is your answer. Its a fun film that puts the majority of it's emphasis on blood and guts and not so much story. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. The finale with Hansel and Gretel fighting a whole bunch of witches was very bloody and very satisfying. This movie is rated R for a reason, folks. When the witches appeared it made me think of the SyFy show FACE/OFF. I wondered if their makeup challenge was used in this movie. There are a lot of witches that come from all over the world for some ceremony. I just wonder if there was an episode of FACE/OFF where the contestants had to make creature effects for the film.
HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is worth a watch. It doesn't get boring and it follows one of my horror movie rules. If you make a zombie movie or vampire movie or in this case a witch killing movie you have to kill lots of zombies, vampires and witches. H&G does that in an extreme over the top fun way. If you got nothing better to do then give this movie a watch. You should have a good time unless you are dead inside. How sad.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Click here to watch MIND'S EYE
Who doesn't want to see a movie for free? Just click the link above to watch the psychological thriller MIND'S EYE. Writer/Director Mark Atkins was kind enough to contact me to review his film and let others know about it. The fact that I am posting about it should let you know it is a good film and worth a watch.
The story is about a young man named David who has been recently released from prison and is trying to get his life back on track. His father shows up and tells David he is dying of cancer. David almost beats his father up right then and there. We learn that David's father left his mother and him when he was only twelve. Full of hatred and conflicting emotions David lets his father speak giving him no words of sympathy. Soon after David receives word that his father has died and he wants his ashes spread in his home town. David reluctantly obliges and soon after driving to his father's hometown meets a mysterious woman at a bar whom he has a one night stand with. After waking the next day David discovers that the woman is gone along with his father's ashes. So now he has to go and investigate who the woman was and why she took the ashes.
MIND'S EYE is a strange film indeed. It mixes elements of a crime noir film with strong visuals of a psychological horror movie. As David dives deeper into his investigation these men in black appear and chase him around a bit. You kind of get the idea that maybe David isn't as mentally stable as he thinks he is. After all the movie does open with our hero standing over some poor bastard that David just beat the crapola out of with this 'I'm a freakin psycho' look on his face accompanied by heavy breathing. This is one of those 'is it happening or is it happening in his head' kind of movies.
When watching low budget films it can be hard to get emotionally invested into the story and characters especially when they look like something that some friends got together to shoot in their backyard after stealing their dad's VHS camcorder. MIND'S EYE is not one of those movies. You would think just by the visuals that this was a medium budget film done by professional movie makers in a big studio. There is a terrific shot of David standing on the shore pouring the ashes of his dead mother. It was an incredible shot with tons of detail and movement with the waves of the water rising and disappearing on the shore. I can't really describe it right. As a director Mark Atkins knows where to put the camera and captures some really beautiful visuals throughout MIND"S EYE as well as some more bloody and unpleasant moments as well. It is a nice mix.
What I liked most about MIND'S EYE was that I never knew in what direction the story was going or what kind of movie I was actually watching. It was very unpredictable which is a hard thing to do to nowadays. At one point I thought maybe aliens were involved since there were the guys running around in black suits. The ending was also a nice change of pace from what I am accustomed to in movies like these. Great job.
Another highlight to the film is Alastair Gamble as David. What a great performance portraying a man who can be wildly intense and violent to highly sympathetic and even a tough guy badass. Alastair Gamble has a strong look to him that could be hero or villain that plays well into a story like this. At one point he beats down two guys and you think that this guy could be an action star. I am being serious. Acting from the supporting cast is strong throughout which is extremely important. It only takes one bad performance to take an audience out a movie especially with lower budgeted films that struggle to maintain their interest.
Obviously MIND'S EYE is a labor of love. It is a creative film that doesn't let the lack of money impede on the visual quality of the film. My only complaint is that I feel that there should have been more music in some of the more intense moments of the film. Other than that MIND'S EYE is a real treat for those who are into movies or looking to get into film making and seeing what can be done with very little money. Writer/Director Mark Atkins shows us that it's not money that makes a movie great but the talent behind and in front of the cameras. I wonder what Mark Atkins will do next.
Monday, January 21, 2013
What a great time it is to be an action movie fan. It is also kind of a weird time as well. Who would have ever imagined that Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to the big screen in a staring role would be a modern day western directed by one of the greatest directors to come out of Korea, Kim Jee-Woon. If you haven't seen THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, I SAW THE DEVIL or A TALE OF TWO SISTERS then you are missing out. The action movie hero torch was never successfully passed to a new generation. I know we saw an attempt with the Rock in THE RUNDOWN but he kind of fumbled it with crap like DOOM and (sigh) THE TOOTH FAIRY along with even more forgettable crap. FASTER was his best but it's too little too late. Thankfully Scott Adkins was there to catch the fumble and with the help of director Isaac Florentine was able to bring about a direct-to-video resurgence of truly great action films like NINJA and UNDISPUTED 2 and 3. But it looks like 2013 is the return of the old guys. We have THE LAST STAND with Arnold, followed by BULLET TO THE HEAD with Stallone and finally DIE HARD part 5 with the ever charming Bruce 'freakin' Willis. All three are released in the first two months of 2013. Hurray! To say the least I was really excited to see THE LAST STAND. I even got my picture with the poster. Look at how happy I am. That's probably the biggest smile you are going to get out of me. That poster was across the street by the way. It was huge. I am standing on the second floor of a parking garage.
THE LAST STAND is about an aging sheriff who realizes that he and his few deputies are the only ones able to stop a recently escaped drug lord (and part time race car driver) from crossing the border in a super fast Corvette. The movie as a whole is pretty darn good. Its not the greatest action movie in the world but it manages to be unique with its crisp dry cinematography and breezy camera movement. Arnold is showing his age but still maintains a strong screen persona. Its comes from his stone cold glare that has been missed from the big screen for so long. Forrest Whitaker is really good in this too playing an agent who is really really pissed off all the time. I guess I would be too if I let the most dangerous man in my custody get away. There is a good amount of warmth in this film coming from the cast. Arnold is the nice sheriff with a bloody past. He knows what is about to come his way. His deputies are bored with the quiet life getting themselves in trouble with their sheriff goofing around with Knoxville who they have to deputize out of desperation to use his guns to fight the baddies at the end. The supporting cast are usually the comic relief and they do a great job especially Luis Guzman. Is Guzman ever bad in anything he does? I don't think so.
Actionwise the film has some car chase stuff that at times feels like a high price car commercial debuting during the Super Bowl. Its not bad or anything but I couldn't help but think that everything looked a little too sleek and polished like a car commercial. I almost expected little words to appear at the bottom stating that this was a professional driver on a closed course. That all changes when the car runs into Arnold. There is a pretty cool showdown in the middle of the sheriff's small town with our lead hero showing up in the time to bring out the big guns to blast a few baddies ending with another car chase and a fist fight on the bridge. Not a whole lot but maybe I was just too spoiled with THE EXPENDABLES 2 which had a body count of like a billion. Even though the action scenes were nothing too spectacular they were at least pretty bloody. Gone is the big special effects heavy watered down PG-13 style of action that was so prevalent in the 90s.
Arnold is one of those actors that was so large in physical size that the film had to fit around him. That really isn't the case with THE LAST STAND. He is still bigger than most but now the movie has to accommodate his age. It works in his favor though. I like older badasses than younger ones. The older look like they have more experience and wisdom. I always preferred John Wayne over the younger Clint Eastwood. THE LAST STAND still has at least one past Arnold movie reference with a sword that looked like Conan's and they still give him a couple of one liners that kind of fall flat. Hey, at least they didn't make him say "I'm back" or some self referential crap that they always do to him.
I hope that Arnold spends his time wisely making harder edge character driven films. We don't need anymore JUNIORs or JINGLE ALL THE WAYs. I really don't want to see him return to his past series either like TERMINATOR or the CONANs. THE LAST STAND is a step in the right direction. Even though its not perfect this modern day western is at least a return to the more violent and gritty Arnold that made him the ultimate badass of the 80's. Bravo. I want more.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Now ATM starts off strong with our leading man clumsily trying to get the nerve up to ask a girl out on a date. He has a friend who is a little outspoken pushing him to make the move. The girl too likes our hero and the two start up a short lived romance. What we have here is a movie that could have easily been a romantic comedy that would have been very entertaining. ATM has interesting characters that are well acted. The film is well directed drawing the viewer in with some great shots and scenes never throwing out fake scares to remind the audience that this is a horror movie. You get a good vibe from the cast and they are like friends to you. Then the three friends get in a car and decide to go to an ATM machine in the middle of the night after leaving a corporate Christmas party. Then the bad horror movie stuff happens and the movie loses it's way.
So the three friends are trapped in a ATM in the middle of the city with no heat because the killer killed the heater and they can't use their phones because they are all out of batteries and the leading man's car doesn't lock leaving it open to the killer to rummage through and find tools that can be used to later frame the leading guy who survives. The camera on the ATM only starts filming when stuff that makes the protagonist look like the killer. For instance this guy dressed in the same coat as the killer walks into the ATM and they kill him thinking he is the killer and of course the camera captures that. Luckily for the real killer that guy in the same coat showed up. That's a lot of coincidences that helped the killer. What a lucky bastard. There are more but you get the idea. If one of the main characters had a working cell phone this movie would be over in five minutes. That is one smart killer knowing that whoever showed up would have no access to a phone. Now maybe I missed something and most of these lucky breaks could be explained away but not all of them.
The coincidences ruin the movie especially at the end with the "big reveal" as to what the killer was doing. By the end I was still confused. At the end our hero lives but of course with the ATM camera capturing him doing things that made it look like he murdered everybody so the police arrest him and not the killer who is not on the cameras. The movie pretends that the killer created the perfect crime but when you think about it nothing really works. Near the end when our hero escapes the killer even makes a move toward the guy like he is going to kill him. Was the killer really going to kill him? Was he trying to frame him or not? The cops show up stopping the killer from doing whatever he was doing. Now we the audience are suppose to think "Hurray for the cavalry" but we have seen too many horror movies to know better. We know the cops won't be smart enough to realize that our hero was just trying to escape. Thanks, ATM but we all have seen the ending to INTRUDER. It's on the NETFLIX too.
ATM thinks it's a clever smart edge of your seat thriller. The problem is that when you think about it you can pick it apart in the details. If it wasn't for that I could recommend this movie. I am not too big of a fan of movies that mostly take place in one small confined room but if ATM was better thought out I would have at least liked this movie a lot more.
Yeah, I thought this movie was going to be porn too.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
So obviously DJANGO UNCHAINED is another masterpiece by the acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino. That was expected. What I didn't expect was how the story never goes the way you expect it to go. For instance you expect the story would be about Django getting revenge on the Brittle Brothers and how he dispatches them one by one throughout the film leaving the worst of the worst till last. But that doesn't happen. Instead Django shows up and he and his new partner Dr. Schultz who freed him from slavery kill the brothers right away in one scene near the beginning of the film. That means all you have left is getting Django's wife back. Seems simple enough. But it is not.
Dispatching the main villains right away leaves DJANGO UNCHAINED free to explore the western genre by depicting scenes, imagery and music from Blaxploitation and Italian Westerns. Most notably westerns directed by Sergio Corbucci who directed DJANGO. I guess this is why I love the movie so much. I love Italian Westerns and I love that this film takes a director who never got noticed on American shores and pushes his films into the public spotlight. The middle part of the film takes place in the snow covered mountains with Dr. Shultz riding around with this huge fur coat similar to the one Klaus Kiniski was wearing in THE GREAT SILENCE. At one point a character gets shot through the flower on his jacket which happens to Jack Palance in THE MERCENARY. Music from DJANGO is used a couple of times throughout the film and there is a muddy street in one of the towns. Maybe the muddy street is just a coincidence but I doubt it. One of the goons who happens to be female (Zoe Bell) wears a red sash just like the goons in DJANGO did. Near the end there is a nod from THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY directed by the other Sergio with Samuel L. Jackson's last line. I'm sure there are more homages to Blaxploitation westerns but I haven't seen many of those so I wouldn't pick up on them as much.
DJANGO UNCHAINED is an extremely violent film with over-the-top blood effects similar to the ones used in PLANET TERROR. The violence is memorable to say the least. One guy gets his fully exposed unmentionables shot off. Don't worry, folks. He was a bad guy so its okay. Often blood erupts like small volcanoes all over the body. Other times though it is small and realistic looking. In one scene where Dicaprio gets angry and smashes a glass it is completely real. I like the different uses for the blood for the different tones of the film. Sometime the violence is horrifying while other times it is comical and extreme. The suffering of slaves is kept realistic while the shoot-em up stuff blood all over the place. You won't forget the first two shots fired in the film that is for sure.
The horrors of slavery are on full display in this film. The characters mindset on slavery are very authentic. To many slavery is just a part of the world they live in no matter how terrible it is. For instance Dr. Schultz believes slavery is wrong but he isn't compelled to spend his life ending it. In fact at the beginning he frees Django from slavery yet still gets a bill of sale to keep things legal. But when he sees a slave that tries to escape get torn apart by dogs it moves him to take action. I was never a Jamie Foxx fan but he is terrific in this movie. His performance is small but detailed compared to Christoph Waltz's attention grabbing and charismatic Dr. Shultz. There are small moments that reinforce the films authentic feel for characters in that time like when Django tastes beer for the first time. He was a slave so he never was allowed the pleasure. Just him being on a horse and everyones' reaction serves the film in its depiction of people's view on racism. The realism is kept in perfect balance with the cartoon violence, comedy, and stylish editing and homages to other films that DJANGO UNCHAINED offers. Remember Tarantino's films are about other films. They are all post-modern. They are not to be completely realistic. This is not a period piece drama.
DJANGO UNCHAINED is probably Tarantino's best film ever. I recommend it highly especially if you want to educate yourself in obscure westerns from the past. By the way Tarantino said in an interview that DEATH PROOF was his worst movie. I could not disagree more. In my humble opinion JACKIE BROWN is his worst. I'm just saying. Maybe one day I will sit down and write a review on it. But I would have to sit down and watch it again. That is a little hard to do. I have only watched JACKIE BROWN once when it came out in theaters back in the day. Yea, I'm old. What of it?